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Promoting a Circular Economy Through Recycling & Partnerships

Plastic is an unrivaled sanitary and lightweight material that helps our modern economy run. However, public scrutiny of plastic waste mismanagement can harm brand reputation and influence buying habits. Mechanical and advanced recycling solutions and partnerships can help.

By Shell Polymers on May 17, 2021

Public perception of plastic waste spurs circular economy efforts

Polling data make clear that public perception of plastic waste demands attention from brands.

For example, according to a World Wildlife Fund survey:1

  • 86% of Americans agree we need to transition from an economy that throws things away to one that emphasizes reuse and recycling.
  • 68% believe that plastics-related companies need to take responsibility for plastic waste challenges.

According to McKinsey:2

  • 43% of consumers say environmental impact is an extremely or very important packaging characteristic when making purchasing decisions.
  • 4% to 7% of consumers are willing to pay a premium well above 10% for sustainable packaging.

Shifting consumer attitudes present potential risks and opportunities for converters and brands.3 Companies are paying attention. In fact, 80% of businesses have targets to address plastic waste but of those companies, less than one-third communicate it externally.4

For those who feel the need to increase their focus on sustainability, advanced recycling offers a new way forward.

Converting plastic waste into plastic feedstock

Mechanical recycling has long been a valuable strategy for reusing plastic waste and promoting a more circular economy.

High-density polyethylene is the most commonly recycled polymer of all. But other resins aren’t quite as easy to recycle. Enter a new technology: pyrolysis, also known as advanced recycling.

Advanced recycling is a chemical process that breaks down plastic waste into a liquid feedstock that can be used to make new circular products. This allows for the reuse of plastic molecules, lessening the need to manufacture new molecules in virgin resin.

The fledgling advanced recycling industry continues to grow. The number of advanced recycling plants is predicted to double globally, to approximately 140 facilities, by 2025.5

Independent Commodity Intelligence Services (ICIS) recently launched a pricing index for pyrolysis oil, signifying growing interest from manufacturers in making circular products.6

Doing so could have beneficial effects on market share for brands and converters. According to a recent consumer study, sustainability is a valuable purchase criterion for 60% of consumers globally, and 61% of consumers in the U.S. specifically.7

Industry partnerships advance circular economy

Another way the plastics industry is working to advance a more circular economy is through partnerships.

For example, the Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW) is a non-profit organization that brings together top minds from across the plastics value chain (chemical and plastic manufacturers, consumer goods companies, retailers, plastic converters, and waste management companies) alongside financial companies, governments, and the broader public.

Shell Polymers is a founding member of AEPW, working with a number of our own competitors as well as converters, brands and others. We proudly help support the organization’s $1.5 billion commitment to help reduce plastic waste in the environment.

AEPW is focused on enhancing waste management capacity and capabilities through improved collection, sorting, processing, and recycling systems, especially in underserved regions.